Gentle Introduction to UX Research

The importance of emotions in business

Over the past few years, we see a trend on the market in which companies want to know more and more about their customers - especially to obtain the so-called Emotional intelligence or understanding what emotions accompany their customers while using their products or watching advertisements.

Research points out that this knowledge can be a secret weapon for companies to be successful through designing products on an emotional level and attract users more.

Recent history has shown that companies such as, Uber Apple or Facebook, which operated in highly competitive markets, were able to disrupt the market and take a leadership position - and what they had in common was providing customers with significantly better user experiences than mass competition. To constantly attract new customers and keep existing ones, companies must stand out and offer the best products with an intuitive, easy to use interfaces. What’s more, they have to connect with their customers on an emotional level.

So, what is User Experience Research (UXR)?

User Experience Research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through interviews, surveys, usability tests and other forms of feedback. It is used to understand how people interact with digital products and evaluate whether current solutions or ideas for new applications meet their needs.

Main advantages of driving UXR in software engineering are:

  • Identify main problems of your current product and increase conversions,
  • Make sure the assumptions are validated and based on real data,
  • Save time/resources for changes later in the product development,
  • Reduce the risk that the company will not find the product (or feature)-market-fit,
  • Get the understanding of customers’ problems and needs and the product they are willing to pay for.

Quantitative UXR

Most commonly used method for driving research is the so called quantitative research. It is the methodology which researchers use to test theories based on numerical and statistical evidence. Researchers sample a large number of users (e.g. analytics on the live website) to indirectly obtain measurable data about users in relevant situations.

Quantitative research methods include:

  • Site analytics,
  • A/B testing,
  • User surveys,
  • Mouse tracking,
  • Card sorting.

Why analytics are not enough?

Data from quantitative research is important and provides information for business decisions, but very often it doesn’t go deep enough to fully understand your users.

Analytics tell you what, usability testing tells you why...

By applying qualitative research (which is about in-depth analysis of users’ feelings, reactions, thoughts, emotions etc.), our research & insights go much deeper than the surface, detecting and explaining user/viewer behaviour on conscious and subconscious level.

Qualitative UXR methods

Qualitative research is the methodology researchers use to gain deep contextual understandings of users via non-numerical means and direct observations. Researchers focus on smaller user samples—e.g., in interviews—to reveal data such as user attitudes, behaviours and hidden factors: insights that guide better designs and product decisions. Qualitative research is run to identify problems of existing products but is also applied at the earliest stages of product development (e.g. validating feature/product ideas, testing on prototypes, etc.).

Qualitative research methods:

  • In depth interview,
  • Focus group,
  • Moderated usability test,
  • Unmoderated usability test.

In depth interviews and focus groups

In-depth interview is a research method used at the stage of ideation for a product or feature development. It consists of a moderator (ux researcher) meeting a participant (a person whose profile resembles the client of a given company). The moderator asks in-depth questions to understand the problems and needs of the participant without focusing on the product to solve this problem yet. Such a study usually takes 45 - 60 minutes. In-depth-interviews research can be extended to a format where there are several participants in one meeting, then we are talking about focus group.

UX Mining: product for driving research interviews remotely, with session recording and note-taking system.

Usability tests

Usability testing is about measuring the ease-of-use, intuitiveness or in general the “usability” of an existing digital product (or when testing at the earlier stage, digital prototype). During the test participant is asked to perform tasks, usually using one or more user interfaces. During the moderated session, UX researcher is asking questions, while in unmoderated participant is doing everything on their own (tasks and answering to the displayed research questions) and presence of moderator is not required.

Unmoderated studies are less time consuming (as participants perform entire session on their own), thus they are giving the possibility to test on the larger scale. On the other hand, unmoderated testing gives less in-depth feedback, as moderated.

UX Mining Moderated: participant is performing tasks on analysed website, while moderator and observers are taking notes and ask in-depth question to validate usability of the site and feelings of the participant.

UX Mining Unmoderated: participant is performing tasks and answers research questions on their own.

Quantitative UXR

As a final consideration, it’s worth mentioning that all the presented methods have their applications in different moments of the product life cycle. This area will be described in more detail in a future blog post. For the moment we will leave you with infographics which explains our idea of using and mixing many research methods as part of the entire UX DevOps methodology:

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  • Category: UX Research
  • Date: 20 June 2022
  • Author:

Grzegorz Meller

Co-founder & CEO at UX Mining. Has expertise in affective computing and its applications in UX research. Enthusiast of regular usability tests in the product discovery process.